On a fading green bench bolted to the sidewalk in front of a small supermarket sits a boy wearing black slacks and one of the two striped shirts the store gave him four years ago on his first day of work, the day that he learned to say paper or plastic and not to put soap in the same bag as chicken and to not accept tips the first time they’re offered and never to squish someone’s bread.
Now nineteen years old, he smokes three filtered menthols in fifteen short minutes, swallows half cans of green caffeine soda, and wonders aloud how long it will be til his half hour lunch and the corn dog he’ll buy from the delicatessen, along with more cigarettes and two cans of soda.
As he waits for his break to expire, out of the automatic doors of the store walks the latest cashier, the one who holds up her bottle-blonde curls on top of her head with a no. 2 pencil, and she smiles and sits right next to him on the narrow, wooden seat and lights up with a Zippo—the first of a new pack of smokes.
Before he stands up to go back to those bags, he closes his eyes and breathes in the smoke that floats off the end of her Marlboro 100, the smell of the chocolate she’s opened, the sun-warmed scent of her hair, and the peppermint chapstick that coats her thin lips, and it all mingles into a daydream that carries him into the store to the time clock that screams it’s 10:06 and you’re late.